Please Help My Raspy Voice.

Duo singers and doctor

Dr. Jahn,

I often wake up with a raspy voice (due to a cold, or acid reflux, or a late night of singing), but I have to talk all day at my job. What are some exercises or tricks to help me get my raspy voice ready for the day?


Dear Kendra,

“Morning voice” is a common complaint. Even in the absence of reflux or a cold, many of us wake up with a husky voice. And performing the night before, especially in a noisy, possibly smoky, environment surely doesn’t help!

There are many factors to consider, and incorporate into your management of “morning voice”. First, I would certainly address the issue of reflux. If this is a problem for you, do the usual things: avoid irritating foods, late meals and excessive alcohol or coffee. Also take your reflux medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, regularly, and not only when you feel the reflux. Finally, you may consider adding an antacid (such as liquid Gaviscon or Maalox)—one tablespoon on going to bed.

An often neglected cause of morning hoarseness is a dry throat secondary to nasal obstruction. Snoring is a tip-off, but even if you don’t snore, you might breathe through your mouth at night. If your nose gets blocked, think about using Breathe-rite nasal strips to flare your nostrils open or having your nose examined for an anatomic obstruction (deviated septum). If you just breathe with your mouth open for no reason, use a humidifier in your bedroom. 

Consider the possibility of allergies causing nocturnal nasal obstruction. Dust, dust mites or feathers (or that cat sleeping beside you) are all possible culprits. Dehydration of the throat is another area of concern. Limit your alcohol intake the night before, and aggressively re-hydrate: drink plenty of water during your evening revels and keep a big glass of water beside your bed during the night.

Colds are often accompanied by excessive thick mucus, which worsen the hoarseness. Wash your nose with salt water, drink plenty of water, and consider taking a decongestant. Keep in mind, however that antihistamines (and to a lesser degree, decongestants) are also drying.

Finally, in the morning- drink a big glass of water on awakening, then hop into a hot steamy shower—this should clean the junk off your vocal folds. Many singers vocalize in the morning (even if you are just going to your day job), and this might be a good routine. Work on flexibility and range rather than your high notes- do your sirens, lip trills and other exercises to get the larynx moving.

A last word: try to schedule your voice lessons or auditions for later in the day, if possible. You want them to hear your best voice, not the morning growl!

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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